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By Ian Grant

Silence. Nothing's happening, nobody's here. The team's training in Portugal, presumably working on not clouting the ball into the nearest opponent at crucial moments; Ray's on a mission somewhere, trying to arrange a loan signing; most of the directors are in the process of either coming or going. There's no preview, no report, no stats to update. You're here out of habit, presumably. I'm here because...hmmm....


Recently, and with more than a little predictable and tedious kerfuffle, the BBC broadcast on radio and television a performance - with a full orchestra, no less - of John Cage's infamous 4'33", a piece composed of four minutes and thirty-three seconds of pure silence. For some, one of the most obvious and laughable examples of the wasteful decadence of modern(ish) art. For me, and I'm not alone, one of the most perfectly profound and beautifully realised ideas of our age.

The argument, of course, says that any one of us could perform a version of Cage's work, free of charge and without any need for a score, an orchestra or an audience. The point, of course, is that we don't. We can't, perhaps. The modern world has systematically obliterated silence, our lives no longer have room for moments of stillness...and we don't need to listen closely to anything, because sound is constantly thrust into our eardrums regardless of whether we're bothering to pay attention. And Cage's work simply slices through all of that, pointedly reminding us of what we've managed to lose.

Because 4'33" is about the world around you, to yourself, to your own thoughts. It's not silence at all, merely the removal of an immediate distraction. It's a pure space, generously donated to occupy and explore as you wish. It's the moment that we're always on the verge of creating for ourselves, before the phone rings again, or Eastenders is on, or the neighbours decide to pump up the volume. It's a beautiful thing.

But it's more than that, for the presence of something as loud and potent as a full orchestra, eagerly poised on the verge of shattering the moment, serves to amplify the moment. A sledgehammer about to fall, it makes the silence seem all the more fragile, precious, perfect. And it's there, I think, that the real genius of the idea lies, for Cage not only creates sublime stillness but demands that we treasure it by showing us how easily it might be destroyed.


So, here we are. In our own lull, after the furore surrounding the Palace debacle has died down and before we're plunged into the final part of the season, whatever it may hold. A few moments of quiet reflection, as above. It doesn't happen often, and still less often at such a crucial, potentially pivotal moment.

After last Saturday, we know what the rest of the season is about. We determined that for ourselves, unfortunately. Now, we have this pause, to wipe the slate clean. To think through what comes next. To get it right in our minds.

And then, to give everything to turning it around....